bedtime

Why Must My Toddler Turn Into a Mini-Tyrant at Night?

brushing teeth

Bedtime has become brutal these days. Ravi will ask for anything and everything under the sun to keep us in her room just a minute longer. A sip of water, please? A tissue, a hair band, a glass of milk? Changing itchy pajamas, finding a pair of socks, a quick back rub—whatever it is, she’ll ask for it.

Now, we’ve tried to establish some decorum here. For example, we’ve introduced a box of tissues and a sippy cup that now live on Ravi’s nightstand for her to use at her own leisure. And once we leave the room, we leave the room.

Well, we try.

“It’s been 20 minutes,” Yael mutters.

I know. The timer is counting on my phone. Twenty minutes of screaming what to my ears sounds like an Adele parody: “Hello, can anyone hear me? Hello! Tati! Mommy! Hello!”

I succumb and open the door. There, standing naked on her bed, is our 3.5-year-old jumping, passionately waving her pull-up above her head, shouting, “I’m not tired! I’m not tired!”

I speak calmly and quietly. “Ravi, what’s up?” I ask.

“Tati,” she says, suddenly like a whimper, “that was very frusturating.”

The added syllable in frustrating melts my heart, but I try and keep a straight face.

“What was frusturating, Ravi?”

“Well, I was calling and calling for mommy and Tati but no one talked back to me.”

This little person and her language fill my heart with such pride and joy, but sleep? Sleep! Please? The times when I’m able to put Ravi to bed successfully, without incident, without returning to her room upon being summoned—these feel like the greatest victories, true triumphs of parenting.

Ravi knows that our family is growing and that she’ll soon be an older sibling. We’ve also worked on sleep training before, or so we thought. Maybe this is part of her testing the parental attention waters?

When it doesn’t involve sleep, “I can do it by myself,” is her new mantra. Putting on shoes, taking off her pull-up, removing the toothpaste cap from the tube, brushing her teeth, pouring her cereal, getting dressed. She is Ms. Independent. But reaching for that tissue box which is literally three centimeters from her bed come nighttime? Not so much.

In the morning, it’s as if the mini-tyrant from the previous night never existed.

“Good morning,” she’ll say cheerfully.

We’ll sing a medley of morning songs on our walk to school, even in these cold winter months. One day recently she surprised me with a new song for our repertoire.

She sang loudly: “The world became nice, the world became nice, hi ho the Cheerios, the world became nice.”

“Ravi, where’s that song from?”

“From my head,” she said.

Now the rabbi in me can’t help but parse this episode. Sure, music fills our home, but what does she know of the world? Does the world becoming “nice” imply that it’s not nice now? What in her 3.5-year-old universe allowed her to reach those conclusions?

During bath time, Ravi reads through an ABC book.

“A is for apple,” she says aloud. “Right, Tati?” she calls to me from the bathroom, already having asked me to leave for “privacy.”

“Yes,” I say.

“Tati, what’s this?” she asks a little bit later, pointing to a new picture.

“Igloo. It’s like an ice home.”

“Oh,” she says satisfied. And then: “I’m learning all the things I don’t know.”

Later, she’ll go to bed without incident and I’ll wonder that ancient question: Why is this night different from all other nights? I have no idea. But I do know that her sense of discovery still manages to inspire me even amid her tantrums and wailing.

In the meanwhile, we’ll keep on prepping, closing doors, opening them, counting to three, setting up boundaries, trying to keep them, and taking what comes. After all, when it comes to Ravi, I’m learning all the things I don’t know, too.


Read More:

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The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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